Friday, October 27, 2006

The Lord's Resistance Army: Time to Pay for Past Sins

In a recent article in the International Herald Tribune, "What comes first: Peace or Justice?", Nick Grono rightfully calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor to proceed with his prosecutions of the top brass of the LRA. Many think this will derail peace talks -- I'm not sure that peace talks will ever work with an individual like Joseph Kony -- head of the LRA. For almost 20 years Northern Uganda has been ravaged by war led first by the Holy Spirit Movement (Alice Lakwena -- related to Joseph Kony) then the LRA. Why hurry now? Too many dictators and murderers have avoided justice in return for peace. But what kind of peace would there be? Idi Amin was able to seek refuge in Libya, then Saudi Arabia. Milton Obote lived happily ever after in Tanzania -- although he always wanted to return to Uganda. It's time for some real justice for the Ugandan people: anything less would be suggesting that their losses are not worthy of international condemnation. It was not only a crime against Ugandans, it was a crime against all of humanity.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Hangman

This is a pretty well known poem that everyone should read if they have not. It refers to the evils of doing nothing. Many primary school teachers use it as a classroom tool. I think it is a good way to reflect on this subject matter, especially for enlightening a younger audience.





The Hangman

by Maurice Ogden

1. Into our town the Hangman came.
Smelling of gold and blood and flame
and he paced our bricks with a diffident air
and built his frame on the courthouse square

The scaffold stood by the courthouse side,
Only as wide as the door was wide;
A frame as tall, or little more,
Than the capping sill of the courthouse door

And we wondered, whenever we had the time.
Who the criminal, what the crime.
That Hangman judged with the yellow twist
of knotted hemp in his busy fist.

And innocent though we were, with dread,
We passed those eyes of buckshot lead:
Till one cried: "Hangman, who is he
For whom you raise the gallows-tree?"

Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,
And he gave us a riddle instead of reply:
"He who serves me best," said he,
"Shall earn the rope on the gallows-tree."

And he stepped down. and laid his hand
On a man who came from another land
And we breathed again, for another's grief
At the Hangman's hand was our relief

And the gallows-frame on the courthouse lawn
By tomorrow's sun would be struck and gone.
So we gave him way, and no one spoke.
Out of respect for his Hangman's cloak.

2.

The next day's sun looked mildly down
On roof and street in our quiet town
And stark and black in the morning air,
The gallows-tree on the courthouse square.

And the Hangman stood at his usual stand
With the yellow hemp in his busy hand;
With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike
And his air so knowing and business like.

And we cried, "Hangman, have you not done
Yesterday. with the alien one?"
Then we fell silent, and stood amazed,
"Oh, not for him was the gallows raised."

He laughed a laugh as he looked at us: "
...Did you think I'd gone to all this fuss
To hang one man? That's a thing I do
To stretch a rope when the rope is new."

Then one cried "Murder!" One cried "Shame!"
And into our midst the Hangman came
To that man's place. "Do you hold," said he,
"with him that was meant for the gallows-tree?"

And he laid his hand on that one's arm.
And we shrank back in quick alarm,
And we gave him way, and no one spoke
Out of fear of his Hangman's cloak.

That night we saw with dread surprise
The Hangman's scaffold had grown in size.
Fed by the blood beneath the chute T
he gallows-tree had taken root;

Now as wide, or a little more,
Than the steps that led to the courthouse door,
As tall as the writing, or nearly as tall,
Halfway up on the courthouse wall.

3.

The third he took-we had all heard tell
Was a user and infidel, and
"What," said the Hangman "have you to do
With the gallows-bound, and he a Jew?"

And we cried out, "Is this one he
Who has served you well and faithfully?"
The Hangman smiled: "It's a clever scheme
to try the strength of the gallows-beam."

The fourth man's dark, accusing song
Had scratched out comfort hard and long;
And what concern, he gave us back.
"Have you for the doomed--the doomed and black?"

The fifth. The sixth. And we cried again,
"Hangman, Hangman, is this the last?"
"It's a trick," he said. "that we hangmen know
For easing the trap when the trap springs slow."


And so we ceased, and asked no more,
As the Hangman tallied his bloody score:
And sun by sun, and night by night,
The gallows grew to monstrous height.

The wings of the scaffold opened wide
Till they covered the square from side to side:
And the monster cross-beam, looking down.
Cast its shadow across the town.

4.

Then through the town the Hangman came
And called in the empty streets my name-
And I looked at the gallows soaring tall
And thought, "There is no one left at all
For hanging." And so he calls to me
To help pull down the gallows-tree.
And I went out with right good hope
To the Hangman's tree and the Hangman's rope.

He smiled at me as I came down
To the courthouse square through the silent town.
And supple and stretched in his busy hand
Was the yellow twist of the strand.

And he whistled his tune as he tried the trap
And it sprang down with a ready snap
And then with a smile of awful command
He laid his hand upon my hand.

"You tricked me. Hangman!," I shouted then.
"That your scaffold was built for other men...
And I no henchman of yours," I cried,
"You lied to me. Hangman. foully lied!"

Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,
"Lied to you? Tricked you?" he said. "Not I.
For I answered straight and I told you true"
The scaffold was raised for none but you.


For who has served me more faithfully
Then you with your coward's hope?" said he,
"And where are the others that might have stood
Side by your side in the common good?,"

"Dead," I whispered, and sadly
"Murdered," the Hangman corrected me:
"First the alien, then the Jew...
I did no more than you let me do."

Beneath the beam that blocked the sky.
None had stood so alone as I
And the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there
Cried "Stay!" for me in the empty square

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Another One?

Yet another "ethnic cleansing" occurring in the world, this time in Iraq. The US army recently found material that a Shiite militia is slowly and methodically removing Sunni families from Wabash. After seeing more and more news coming out of Iraq of incidents like this, I'm starting to wonder if the presence of the "coalition of the willing" is really helping the people of Iraq, or if matters are only getting worse. To the best of my knowledge, the problem's existed since the collapse of the Ottoman empire, and the drawing of maps to natural lines, rather than ethnic lines, in essence, smooshing people together that hate each other. Is there a solution to this problem, or is US isolationism the only cure?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Forgiveness: a necessary evil?

I have been thinking alot about the nature of forgiveness. The previous post and our discussion in class on Monday have further provoked my thoughts. What is the nature of forgiveness? Can someone ever truly forgive even as the memory lingers? We can see forgiveness as foundational in such religions as Buddhism and the Amish sect of Christianity. The fact that the Amish forgave Carl Roberts so quickly and seemingly effortlessly will never cease to amaze me. Is there really a power of forgiveness? I like to think yes, someone can truly forgive an action and thus heal from the past, but I am not so sure. It is awfully hard to forgive someone who has viciously murdered you family. What about someone who orchestrated a genocide such as Hitler? Can we ever really forgive him? Is there a certain degree of transgression which we can forgive? Where do we draw the line?

Forgiveness: a necessary evil?

I have been thinking alot about the nature of forgiveness. The previous post and our discussion in class on Monday have further provoked my thoughts. What is the nature of forgiveness? Can someone ever truly forgive even as the memory lingers? We can see forgiveness as foundational in such religions as Buddhism and the Amish sect of Christianity. The fact that the Amish forgave Carl Roberts so quickly and seemingly effortlessly will never cease to amaze me. Is there really a power of forgiveness? I like to think yes, someone can truly forgive an action and thus heal from the past, but I am not so sure. It is awfully hard to forgive someone who has viciously murdered you family. What about someone who orchestrated a genocide such as Hitler? Can we ever really forgive him? Is there a certain degree of transgression which we can forgive? Where do we draw the line?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Can there be forgiveness of LRA?


A recent Christian Science Monitor article by the long-time Africa-watcher, Abraham McLaughlin reports on the return of former LRA fighters to their villages. Can there be reconciliation in Northern Uganda? Is the International Criminal Court necessary? Will the inditements against Joseph Kony (picture above), the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, and Vincent Otti (the second in-command) help the peace process or harm it? Will it help bring an end to the 20 year conflict or will it prolong it? Will it bring justice for those who lost their lives?
Is peace within reach?
The jury is still out on that, but maybe we can learn something from the Ugandans' willingness to forgive...but not to forget?
(Picture uploaded from: pub.tv2.no)

Human rights do begin at home


A recent Christian Science monitor Op-ed piece really hammered it home for me: human rights do begin at home -- so does the work of human rights. Lisa Suhay who attended a talk by former high commissoner for the UNHCR, Mary Robinson, recognized that Robinson was right: you can't expect human rights to thrive in the rest of the world, if you don't even have it in your own backyard -- well that's not exactly what she said -- but that's my paraphrase. Robinson quoted one of my favorite heroes: Eleanor Roosevelt -- chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission of 1948: "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? I small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works...Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world". Thanks for helping us re-think the terrible things that are going on in this world and what we should do...
(Picture uploaded from: cityguide.pojonews.com)

Could this Save the World....of Warcraft

or
Can Video Games Change How People Think?

I was reading the NY Times this summer and I saw an article about socially conscious video games and whether they can make a difference. The question was whether or not the video game industry has matured enough that they could present a subject like the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in a serious and probing matter like other forms of entertainment have been able to do.

Well from what I have seen so far from this game Peacemaker, I believe they could. Peacemaker is a political simulation that deals with the Middle East Conflict. A player can either choose to be either the Israeli Prime Minister or President of the Palestinian Authority. Once they choose sides they must attempt to secure the region and promote peace. The game has realistic actions and responses and can help explain to people a very complicated situation in an active and interesting way.

So. Can video games change the world? I don't know, but what I do know is I can't wait to see.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Air Torture

Wanna take a trip to an exotic destination... its free. All you have to do is disobey.

I was reading through the site and I saw that Amnesty International holds guerrilla theater performances in airports. Personally I find this to be quite effective and dramatic. Imagine yourself preparing to board an airplane when suddenly you see someone bound and gagged being transported through the terminal. This kind of protest works on two levels. The first is that it draws immediate attention. People do not know that this is staged. For all they know that person being dragged away is really going to be tortured. The second level is that protest and civil disobedience, is only effective if it is "dangerous" or illegal. Seeing a bunch of twentysomethings holding signs and shouting in the streets has been adopted into the political culture. It is not dangerous any more, the government, or whoever the protesters are protesting do not feel threatened (I am not speaking only about physical violence or property damage, the threatened feeling could simply be that there is some new and unexpected force counter to them).
The old forms of protest are tired and anticipated. For example, if anyone remembers both the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention, then you may remember the "free speech zones". The "free speech zones" were fenced in cages where legally permitted protest was allowed to occur. Since when does free speech reside in a cage? To me, anyone who "legally" protested in the cage was simply a tool. The real protesters where on the streets, they were among the cadres of both parties; they were acting outside the law and what was expected of them. The reason why the protest of the 60s and 70s where so effective was because it was unexpected and forceful. The Freedom Riders, the Lunch Counter Sit Ins, the campus take overs, all were illegal. These were the people who caused great change, not those who were simply willing to follow the rules and asked for their turn to speak. The people who make a difference demand their turn to speak, and that makes all the difference.

More Problems in Sudan

As if the situation in Darfur isn’t difficult enough, Sudan gave the top U.N. official in the country, Jan Pronk, three days to leave. The government of Sudan continues to undermine the international community’s efforts to bring peace to the region. Sudan expelled Jan Pronk for openly criticizing Khartoum (Sudan’s capital) and rebel groups on his web log. It’s quite disheartening that efforts to help with the genocide in Sudan are unsuccessful due to those contributing to the problem. Even the Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir refused a U.N. resolution approved on August 31st authorizing the creation of a more robust peacekeeping mission because it would violate his country’s sovereignty. Does Sudan have a right to claim sovereignty?

When measures are taken to the help with the situation in Darfur and eventually defeated, improving the situation becomes a challenge and near impossibility. Is there any hope for an end to the violence?

The Immigration Debate in Russia

We have spoken about the issue of immigration especially illegal immigrants in the United States. This post, however, is about the issue of immigration in Russia. The article I found on the NY Times website is about, in part, a man named Aleksandr A. Belov. He is the founder of an organization known as the Movement against Illegal Immigration. His main claim is that Russia, unlike the United States is not a nation built by immigrants. The post-Soviet generation in Russia, therefore, it seems trying to come to terms with its identity. Who is a Russian is an important question in this regard. What defines Russians-religion, ethnicity, nationalism?

Belov is of the opinion that Russia has never welcomed immigrants. However, the question is not just about Russia's identity. For the sake of argument, I am going to exclude illegal immigrants from this scenario. Therefore, what about those people who want to enter Russia, have all the requisite documents and are making use of legal means to enter the nation? Do we just ignore their right to migrate to Russia because Russia was not built by immigrants? Isn't freedom of movement a basic right? Is the us vs. them distinction so deep in Russia that there is not place for people who are ready to get into the country the "right" way?